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Collect Calls To Cell Phone From Jail
High phone bills in prisons generate $1.4 billion a year, leaving women and people of color in debt
Recording Phone Calls Can Help Prove Abuse
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Inmates enter the Sheriff’s Central Men’s Jail in 2011. Lauren Oh Jr./MediaNews Group/Orange County Subscribe via Getty Images
For three years, Micah White and her 10-year-old daughter spoke to her incarcerated husband on the phone three or four times a day.
But in March, a sudden cost increase made the routine untenable: White’s calls to her husband went from 4 cents a minute to 13.5 cents a minute, and she had to pay her every time she needed to add money to her calling account . it’s an additional 99 cents charge.
Blue Earth County Jail
Her husband’s correctional facility in Carrabelle, Florida, seven hours from her home in Fort Pierce, Florida, was switched by Securus, the telecommunications company, to Global Tel Link, which provides phone service to inmates.
White said the change is a “hit on the wallet” because he’s now trying to fit everything he wants to say into one phone call.
It was hard because I didn’t want to not talk to him,” White told Insider. “When I hear his voice, I hear his calmness. I know it’s okay. It’s not easy when you don’t see the people you want to see every day. You want to hear their voices every day. “You want to make sure it’s okay.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, American families pay $1 billion a year to call family members in prison, a figure that suggests prison telecommunications companies are charging families like White extortionate fees to connect with loved ones in prison. More than a third of households were charged to pay for these calls and visits, according to the human rights group Ella Baker Center.
Jail Rules And Visitation — Marion County Sheriff’s Office
As with many aspects of the criminal justice system, women and people of color disproportionately bear this financial burden. Prisoners’ family members were responsible for these calls in 63 percent of cases, of which 83 percent were women. Nearly a quarter of women are related to someone who is incarcerated, but black women like white women are more affected than their white peers: 44 percent of black women have a family member who has been incarcerated, compared to 44 percent hundred of white women. is 12%.
Wanda Bertram, communications strategist at the Prison Policy Initiative, said companies that charge for phone calls in prisons are “squeezing wealth out of black and brown communities.” “People turned to their mothers, sisters, grandmothers and girlfriends” to pay for keeping in touch, he said.
Many families have no choice but to pay the exorbitant costs: “If you’re in prison, you’re desperate to be in touch with your family,” Bertram said, and the fact that incarcerated people are largely ignored makes the situation worse. from the public. “Companies use it to produce inferior products,” he added. For example, users of these technologies told Insider that they experienced technical difficulties that were ignored by providers.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nearly every correctional facility in the country has a contract with a prison telecommunications company such as Securus or GTL, which together control between 74% and 83% of the industry. According to the advocacy group Worth Rises, the prison telecommunications industry generates $1.4 billion in revenue annually from phone calls alone.
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In their contract proposals, telecommunications companies state how much prisons will receive through telephone profit sharing, enticing prisons to choose the contract that provides the most money.
“It caused a bidding war between the companies,” Bertram said. “It raises the prices of phones. When companies are basically competing to win more contracts, the only way to do that is to put more money into the facility.”
But the cost of staying connected goes beyond phone calls. Companies like GTL also charge customers to add money to their accounts: White pays 99 cents to add money to her account online and $5 over the phone. It can only top up $50 at a time, so it gets charged over and over again.
“We’re being ripped off by these big companies that are making money off of people like me,” White said. “Fight.
Send Money To An Inmate
Black and brown communities across the country are over-policed: Studies show that black people are disproportionately stopped, arrested and imprisoned by police, making up one-third of the US prison population. The high cost of phone and video calls further exacerbates the racial wealth gap, especially when incarcerated families come primarily from low-income backgrounds.
How well a person stays in touch with family and friends while in prison is linked to whether they will reoffend after they get out: A Minnesota Department of Corrections study found that even one visit was linked to a 13 percent lower recidivism rate in new crimes. the recidivism rate of technical crimes will be reduced by 25%. Irregularities.
“We are more likely to see people return successfully if they stay in touch with their families,” said Bianca Tylek, founder and director of Worth Rises. There is a strong interest in freedom of communication.
Families have also long sued for the right to contact loved ones, taking the case to the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the communications industry. The FCC caps interstate prepaid calls at 21 cents per minute and collects calls up to 25 cents per minute. But 80 percent of the calls are interstate and not federally regulated. Lobbying by the major telecommunications companies has also reduced efforts for many families, and state courts vary in how they regulate calling charges.
Rappahannock Regional Jail
Advocacy groups are pushing prisons and software companies to offer toll-free calls in addition to legislation such as the Prisoner Call Technology Corrections Act, which would clarify the FCC’s authority to regulate these calls and their costs.
Tech startups like Ameelio are also working to provide free, secure video conferencing services that people can use to communicate with loved ones in prison.
“There’s a lot of ways they just took some core technology that we’ve had for a year or two and monetized it and brought it in-house,” Telek said. Very expensive, also because we can use many of these technologies for free.
But in the meantime, families like White’s across the country who just want to bond with their loved ones in prison will continue to spend their savings to make it happen.
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“Here, you don’t pay a lot of money to make a call. “You don’t pay a lot of money to use Zoom,” White said. “Why is it okay to charge families so much?” Why does the corrections department always have a different set of rules? Why don’t we have a choice in the services we can choose?’ Prisons in the US use a company called Securus Technologies to secure and monitor inmate calls. But the former Mississippi County sheriff used the little-known Securus service to monitor people’s cell phones, including those of other officers, without a warrant, according to charges filed against him in state and federal courts.
The service can locate almost any mobile phone in the country within seconds. It does so through a system commonly used by marketers and other companies to obtain location data from major carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, the documents show.
Sheriff Cory Hutcheson used the service at least 11 times between 2014 and 2017, prosecutors said. His alleged targets were a judge and members of the National Highway Patrol. Hutchison, who was fired last year for unrelated work, has pleaded not guilty to the stalking case.
As location tracking becomes more accurate and more people carry their phones at all times, the ability of law enforcement and companies like Securus to access this data has become a growing privacy concern.
Calling Your Lawyer’s Cell From Jail? What You Say Can And Will Be Used Against You.
Securus offers location-based services to law enforcement officers and correctional authorities as an added feature, part of an effort to attract customers in a lucrative but competitive industry. In the promotional package, the company is one of the largest suppliers of prison phones in the country,
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